Probably best known as a warm spiced cider drink or a traditional holiday sing-along, Wassail, is also New York City’s first-ever cider bar, located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
The menu has a heavy focus on hard ciders, a mix of locally made and international, including quite a few served on tap. In addition to cider (including sweet cider and ice cider), apple spirits—eau de vie, brandy, pommeau—and cocktails using all of the above round out the list. Beer and wine are available as well. Wassail is also a full restaurant, and its lauded comfort-food menu, heavy on the veg, has made it a late-night industry favorite.
“Cider is a really open beverage,” explains Cider Director Dan Pucci, who cut his teeth in the world of wine working as a sommelier and manager at Eataly and Otto, before being brought on board at Wassail to open the restaurant in 2015. “There are no elite clubs, no affectations. People can drink it and enjoy it, without all of the baggage that comes along with wine. It’s a totally clean slate and an open door.”
Pucci’s cider knowledge is mostly hard-won by working closely with apple growers and cider producers, but he’s happy to share what he’s learned with customers.
“I’m really excited about the Northeast,” he says, referencing ciders made in New York’s Finger Lakes and Hudson Valley regions. “They’re making excellent products with quality and personality to them.” The explosion of consumer interest in cider has encouraged farmers to plant new cider varieties in the last two to three years, he adds. Looking ahead, Pucci expects to see more ciders coming online in the next couple of years.
“Cider is still in its infancy,” he notes, “but it’s a relaxed community. We’re inviting people in, and every year things are getting better and better.”
Stone Fence Boilermakers
Ideal for those who can’t decide on just one sipper, Wassail offers a line-up of cider-and-shot combinations. It’s a mash-up of the beer-and-shot Boilermaker and The Stone Fence, a Colonial-era drink comprising hard cider spiked with a dose of the harder stuff (often brandy or rum)—although at Wassail, the spirited companion might be a bitter amaro or bracingly pine-y liqueur. The combos are ordered by number:
#1 shot of Calvados (French apple brandy) + shorty of French cidre
#2 shot of rhubarb amaro + sidra (a dry Spanish cider)
#3 shot of Zirbenz pine liqueur + hopped cider
162 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
Open at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; open at 4 p.m. on Saturday.